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Something that comes up surprisingly infrequently when it comes to watches is the question, “What role does this item play in my life?” Timekeeping is the answer less often than I would anticipate. For me however, accuracy and reliability really are paramount. The advent of the quartz movement exemplified that accuracy did not always have to come at a great expense. Quartz watches primarily were coming out of Japan and the Swiss suffered as a result.
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During the panic of the Quartz Crisis during the 1970’s and 80’s Swiss watchmakers struggled to find a solution to the dwindling revenue and customer base. One of the most notable attempts came from Longines in 1984 in the form of the VHP movement (Very High Precision). This movement emphasized accuracy, shaving down the time keeping variation to fractions of a second per month. Ultimately, as mechanical watches rebounded, the Longines VHP’s were discontinued and the mantle of HAQ (High Accuracy Quartz) fell to others. But now they have returned. Longines announced the reintroduction of the VHP series in 2017 at Basel, and that’s what we’re looking at today, the Longines Conquest V.H.P. First off, some specs:
- Case Width: 41.45mm
- Case Thickness: 12.19mm
- Lug to Lug: 49.79mm
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Weight: 5.3oz (on bracelet)
The VHP is a fairly low-impact watch in your daily life. In a way, I suppose on the wrist the VHP is relatively unremarkable. When we’re discussing how a watch fits on the wrist; “unremarkable” is a good thing. The VHP is available in a 41mm case and a 43mm case. The 41 is pretty much perfect on my 7.25” wrist. You want a watch to fold itself into your day-to-day activities and wardrobe, not stick out and be conspicuous… at least not in respect to comfort. The VHP excels at this.
The caliber L288 Longines VHP Quartz movement was developed in partnership with Longines and ETA under the Swatch umbrella. This movement is what really sets the VHP apart in my eyes. Previous to this watch I have owned both a Breitling Aerospace (actually a couple of them) and an Omega X-33 both HAQ (high accuracy quartz) watches with a ton of value and functionality. Both the Omega and the Breitling movements are spec-ed to get +/- 10s variance per year. While this is already remarkable, Longines wanted to make the most accurate non-radio controlled watch available on the market. In their attempt, they achieved a movement that cut the previous annual variance in half. The Longines VHP’s average +/- 5s a year. That may seem like splitting hairs, but to my knowledge, they only have one other peer in the Citizen Chronomaster.
In addition to the timekeeping of the L288, Longines developed a couple other really great features. Firstly, the watch has a power saving mode. To access it you pull out the crown and leave it. After 1-2 minutes the hands will all snap to noon and remain there. While in this mode the watch continues to keep time, but the hands do not move, saving power. To exit power saving mode simply push the crown in and the second hand will snap to time, the minute/hour hands rotate and resume timekeeping, and the date window will also tick over to the correct date if it’s been longer than 24 hours since you last wore it.
The L288 also features an anti-magnetic/anti-shock protection system called GPD or “Gear Position Detection.” To, I’m sure, vastly over simplify how it works; the GPD remembers the position of the hands at all times. When the watch encounters a magnetic field or a shock from a drop the hands freeze till the interruption passes, then snap back to the correct position and resume timekeeping.
Lastly, setting the VHP is a unique experience unto itself. Longines makes use of what they call a “magic crown,” which allows you to adjust the minute’s hand in tiny increments, or with a fast turn, it will advance one entire hour at a time. When you pull the crown out and turn it, the second hand snaps to noon to allow you to easily sync the watch with atomic time when you’re setting it.
The case on the VHP is pretty low key. You can tell that Longines really wanted to focus on the other elements of the watch and kept the case low key so as not to distract. I think if there’s one area I could critique this watch it would be the case. It seems unnecessarily thick. A friend of mine whom also bought a VHP said that it seemed as if Longines simply shoe-horned the VHP movement into the regular Conquest line’s case. I can agree with that, it seems overly large for a quartz watch.
Dial, Bezel, and Crystal
The bezel on the VHP is a polished steel bezel reminiscent of the Tudor Oysterdate’s or a Rolex Datejust. This is an element that I feel classes the watch up, but could also result in an area that could exhibit heavy wear. I generally prefer brushed finishes over polished.
The dial has a concentric circle pattern radiating out from the middle, making the black dial look almost grey-ish in certain light. I really like this touch. I think it classes up the watch a lot. It reminds me a bit of the wave dial on Omega SMPs. All of the hour markers and the Longines logo are applied with the noon and six o’clock marker being large polished numerals. The hands are polished sword hands with generous amounts of lume applied to them. The second hand is red tipped and lines up with the second markers on the dial perfectly with each tick.
Lume is also applied to the hour markers with the exception of the large numerals. All-in-all the lume is sufficient for practical use (telling the time during a movie) but not exceptional. Last little detail to pick out is the date window at 3. It has a small white outline, but the date wheel itself is black. (One cool detail on the date is after 31 and before 1 there is a Longines symbol that rolls passed.)
Lastly, let’s talk about the crystal. Flat sapphire with really, really nicely done AR making you think you can almost reach in and touch the dial itself. Not much else to say there. Well done Longines.
Okay, the VHP comes on a really nice steel bracelet that has a butterfly clasp and uses split pin construction for the links. On my wrist, the bracelet is nicely done, with a brushed finish and polished sides. The catch with this bracelet is, to my knowledge, Longines does not have half links available. My wrist fits fine with two links removed. However, my buddy’s wrist the bracelet is too big with two removed and too small with three, so he’s been exiled to NATOs only. That may be an issue for some of you. Apart from this potential issue, I love the bracelet.
Longines Conquest V.H.P. Review – Final Thoughts
To put a bow on this watch… I love it. I was extremely interested in the technology that Longines and ETA pioneered in this piece, but then I stayed for the aesthetic. It’s a sharp looking watch that would be equally at home in a dresser environment as it would with jeans and a t-shirt. The Longines VHP’s are available for around $1000 and come in two different sizes 41 and 43mm. There is also a VHP Chronograph available if that’s your bag.
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